The underlying theme of the 2021-22 Carolina basketball team was improvement. Sure, it wasn’t constantly broadcasted throughout the season, but the premise of Roy Williams leaving and Hubert Davis coming in was that Williams wasn’t the right guy for the job anymore, and that Davis could bring back Carolina basketball in all of its glory. That’s certainly what happened this year, and it’s hard not to be really excited about what is to come in the future.
Still, while everyone on the team showed some sign of improvement from last season, there was one player in particular that showed the most growth. Sophomore point guard R.J. Davis had arguably the biggest glow-up from last season, and he became word-for-word bar-for-bar the point guard that the Tar Heels needed to not only make it to the Final Four, but make it to the national championship game. He was fast, he was aggressive, and he was intelligent in everything that he did. I’ll be honest: I thought about picking Caleb Love for this award, but when you look closely at what Davis did this season, it’s hard to not give him the nod.
Davis finished his sophomore season averaging 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game, all while shooting 42.5% from the field, and 36.7% from three-point range. How are those numbers compared to last season? He averaged 8.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game during his freshman season, and shot at a 35% clip from the field, and 32.3% from deep. If anybody is wondering about turnovers, he had the exact same average both years (1.9 per game). Needless to say, statistically he had a much better season, but I don’t feel like that tells the full story.
Throughout this season, we got to watch Davis gradually become a more mature, poised, and lethal player. Things definitely didn’t start out that way from a facilitation perspective: I can recall many times earlier in the season when I held my breath because of how fast and reckless Davis was coming down the floor, and at times he proved that I had a reason for concern. However, as the season progressed I saw him slow down, scan the floor, and make a lot of great decisions when he was at the point guard spot. He became so good that by the time the regular season was over, it was clear that he belonged at the point guard spot, and Caleb Love was best served at the shooting guard spot. The team consistently looked better when Davis was the facilitator, and he deserves a lot of credit for the work he has put into his game.
As far as his scoring prowess is concerned, Davis was as good as anybody could’ve hoped for. In the Final Four alone he had a combined 32 points in both games, though he struggled with efficiency in the game against Kansas. Still, performances like his 30-point game against Baylor gives us a glimpse of just how lethal he can be when he is feeling confident in his shot. Davis is going to be a lot to deal with next season, and I’m really excited to see how much he improves over the summer.
What do you think of our choice to give R.J. Davis the Most Improved Player award? Do you feel like there was someone more deserving? Let us know in the comments below.